WOULD you accept The Fred West Bursery for Good Family Relationships? How about The Jeffrey Dahmer Award for Culinary Excellence? No? Sure you’re only being churlish.
This, roughly, is the position of the Meath Peace Group who urged founding member Julitta Clancy to accept an honourary MBE after her initial doubts about the idea. MBE stands for Member of the British Empire and is an award given by the United Kingdom government.
It is nothing short of a scandal that the British insist in maintaining the name of these awards given the sick history of the British Empire. An award for peace in the name of the British Empire must be, in fact, a sick joke.
This is the entity that carried out its business by military conquest and maintained those conquests by breaking every understood human right that has ever been devised. This is the ‘organisation’ that invented the modern concentration camp during the Boer War; that organised global looting on a scale never seen before or since; stood in domination over a quarter of the Earth’s landmass; and, where Hitler’s Nazis failed, actually presided over the elimination of a complete race of humans, the Tasmanian aborigines.
I could go on. And on. And on.
Think of a war zone. It’s a fair bet your chosen war zone will have had the intimate involvement of the British Empire in its past. Places like Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Ireland, etc. The imperial process usually involved the favouring of one part of the population over another. The consequences of this globalised deviousness and utterly ruthless self-interest still costs lives on a daily basis.
And there was nothing particularly British about it. Most of our friends in the European union are former colonial powers whose deeds on every continent plumbed the very depths of human depravity and wickedness.
Today’s bad guys – Al Q’uaida and the like – are rank amateurs in the destruction of human lives and in the use of unbridled violence compared to any of the European empire builders.
For some reason, modern Irish people are embarrassed to point out the sheer awfulness of the British Empire. Some people think we should accept these awards because they are given by the modern UK government.
There is an opinion that we should forget the past. I agree. So why not drop the issuing of awards in the name of that truly terrible beast – the British Empire?
Surely it’s about time the British faced up to their history and repudiated the deeds of their former empire. It is deeply regrettable that the Irish parties at the Good Friday Agreement talks did not enter matters like these into the discussions.
The British constitution, with its sectarian laws and its refusal to come to terms with its legacy in Ireland and elsewhere, should have been as much a part of the debate as our constitution was.
The fact that we still haven’t the guts to stand up and tell the British where to shove their disgracefully named awards perhaps shows that we still have not got over our own traumas with the British Empire.